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Your boss seeks you out first thing in the morning, asks you to come into her office. The second she closes the door, even before she says, “I hate having to be the one to tell you but…” you know what’s happening.
You’ve been downsized.
Maybe you saw it coming. Maybe your company was recently bought by another, bigger company and rumors about pink slips have run rampant ever since. Or perhaps technological changes have meant less and less work coming your way.
Or, until the boss called you in, maybe you had no idea that your job was at risk. Maybe this news has rocked your world, thrown you into panic, or depression, or simply left you shell shocked, numb with disbelief.
Either way, the job you thought (or hoped) you could count on is gone and you’re grappling with one all consuming question.
Here are a few tips to reinvent your career and find your dream job.
TAKE A BREATH
The thing to do right now is to stay calm.
Obviously, losing your job isn’t a cause for celebration but remember that plenty of other smart, hardworking, and capable people have gone through the same thing. Try to see it as a pivot point to reinvent your career.
Gone are the days when people joined a company right out of school and stuck around to collect a gold watch and a pension forty years later. Today, the average American worker experiences between five and seven career changes over her lifetime.
Suddenly finding yourself without work can be frightening and even demoralizing. However, remember that being downsized isn’t necessarily a commentary on your talent, abilities, or work ethic. It’s more likely a reflection of changing times and circumstances.
And while a sudden loss of employment can leave you feeling unsettled and adrift, consider the possibility that this might be the first step toward a new and far more fulfilling career.
In the meantime, take a breath, take stock, make a plan for success, and make the most of every opportunity.
TAKE STOCK OF THE OPPORTUNITIES
In the wake of a job loss, you’ll have some immediate, practical concerns to attend to. You’ll need to work out the details of any possible severance, insurance coverage, transition support, or unemployment benefits offered by your company or your state. (If you’re being offered a severance package in return for signing a separation agreement, be sure to have an attorney look at it before you sign!).
You’ll also want to take steps to reduce your expenses and preserve your savings while you polish your resume and fire up your professional networks in search of your next opportunity.
In addition to taking care of the practicalities, you’d be smart to take some time to dream about the future. Though a career shift may not have been part of your plan, you can still take advantage of this opportunity to create a new and even better roadmap going forward.
Ask yourself some questions.
If the choices were up to you, what you’d like your work life to look life in one year? Or five? Or ten? Would you want to stay in the same industry? Doing the same thing you did before? Or would you prefer to try another field? Or move into management? Perhaps start a business of your own?
A job loss can be jarring, no doubt about it. But it can also be the impetus to figure out what you really want to do with your life.
TAKE STOCK OF YOURSELF
Years ago, my husband took a job that required an out of state move. Though I’d had a successful event planning business, finding work in our new town proved nearly impossible.
It was frustrating experience, and discouraging. But then a friend challenged me to answer this question, “What’s the job you’d love so much that you’d be willing to do it for free?”
I had no idea. But I knew I needed to find out.
I bought a copy of What Color Is Your Parachute and started working through the exercises to better understand my strengths, weaknesses, interests, experiences, opportunities, and aspirations.
It was a lot of work! But by the time I was finished, I understood that what I really wanted to do (at least that stage of my life) was to work in ministry.
Stepping back to take stock was an investment of time that changed my life.
Within a couple of months, I was hired as a manager in a national parachurch ministry, doing work that I was good at and absolutely loved!
At the time, I felt like I could work there forever. But guess what? Less than two years later, my family moved again.
REINVENTION AND COURSE CORRECTION
Once again, an unexpected life change forced to me reinvent myself. This time, it was even trickier.
In Mexico, I actually couldn’t work because I didn’t have the papers to do so. But, after some reflection, I realized that my inability to work actually opened up some interesting avenues for me. The time was right to transform my interest in writing from a hobby to a career.
I wasn’t easy. Ten years passed between that moment of decision and the time my first book was published. I had plenty of day jobs along the way and more rejection letters than I care to count.
Fourteen novels later, I’m grateful for unexpected course corrections that steered toward my true purpose.
MAKE A PLAN FOR SUCCESS
Once you’ve spent some visualizing your dream career, you need to create a plan for making that dream a reality.
You might need to up your technical skills, go back to school, or finish your degree. Maybe fulfilling your dream will mean moving to another town or part of the country. You might need to take a day job that pays the bills and a side hustle to garner the experience or build a resume in that will, in time, qualify you for the career you covet.
Losing a job can shake your confidence at any age but it can be especially disheartening in the years beyond fifty. But here’s something I know to be true…
It’s always too soon to give up on yourself and never too late to reach for your dreams.
MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY
In 2009, my husband found himself without work. It was the height of the recession. The job market was very tight, especially for men over sixty.
Never one to let long odds deter him, my husband made finding a job his full time job. Nobody could have tired harder. Even so, month after month passed without any offers.
It was a discouraging time for my husband and was a frightening time for our family. With our savings depleted, the possibility of losing our home was real.
Finally, an offer came through. The job paid a quarter what he’d made previously and included no benefits. On top of that, it was only temp job, with a three-month contract.
In spite of this, my husband dove into the work with enthusiasm and made the most of the opportunity. At the end of three months, his contract was extended and expanded. The process would repeat itself, more than once.
In time, that temporary contract led my husband into challenging, fulltime work he truly enjoyed and a title he’d always dreamed of – Chairman.
CHALLENGES, CHANGES, AND TESTS OF COURAGE
If you’ve recently lost your job, you might feel untethered, uncertain, sad, or simply furious. That’s okay. You’re entitled to your feelings, whatever they may be.
Just don’t get stuck there.
As the author Paul Coelho wrote, “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.”
Many a positive career path has begun with an unexpected job loss. Though things may look bleak in the beginning, someday you may actually look back on this experience as the moment when your life took a turn for the better.
Until that day comes, look ahead, move forward, and meet the challenge.